Court: Arafat Guilty of Murder

A U.S. court has ordered the PA to compensate children orphaned in a terrorist attack, declaring former PA Chairman Arafat responsible.

Maayana Miskin ,

The Unger family
The Unger family
Israel News Photo: file

A United States court ruled Thursday evening that the Palestinian Authority must compensate the children of Yaron and Efrat Unger, who were murdered in a terrorist attack in 1996. Former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat bore responsibility for the slayings, the court determined.

The court ruled that the couple's children should receive the $116 million that they were awarded in a previous verdict.

Yaron, 26, and Efrat, 25, were shot and killed by a PA terrorist as they drove near the city of Beit Shemesh, southwest of Jerusalem and west of Gush Etzion. Their infant son was in the car but survived the attack.

The couple was survived by their children Dvir and Yishai, who were two years old and nine months old respectively at the time that their parents were murdered.

Yaron held U.S. citizenship, a fact that later allowed his family to seek damages for the killing. Dvir and Yishai filed suit five years ago under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, which allows foreign terrorist groups to be sued for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

The PA appealed, arguing that it was not responsible for the attack, which was carried out by a member of Hamas, and not of the ruling Fatah terrorist group led by Arafat. The Ungers argued that Arafat's PA provided a safe haven for Hamas and allowed terrorists unfettered license to attack Israeli civilians.

Judge Ronald Lagueux blamed the PA's loss on Arafat's policies. “These choices were the intentional, deliberate and binding decision made by the PA's dictatorial leader. Defendants must now accept the consequences of these decisions,” he wrote in his verdict.

Arafat's policy of refusing to recognize the U.S. court system's authority played a large role in the verdict as well. When the Unger children first filed suit, the PA refused to give witness depositions or to share evidence with the Ungers' attorneys as it was required to do, leading to a default verdict in favor of the Ungers.

PA attorneys later appealed, arguing that they had not understood the U.S. court system, but that argument was rejected.

An Israeli court has ruled that the Unger children may take steps to force the PA to pay them if the U.S. court were to rule in their favor.

A second defendant in the case, Hamas, has made no effort to defend itself.